• Press Release

Amnesty International Calls on President Obama to Put Human Rights at the Center of Surveillance Reform

January 9, 2014

Organization Urges Protection for Whistleblowers

Contact: Gabe Cahn, [email protected], 202.776.7700, c: 202.412.1678

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – President Obama should ensure that U.S. surveillance, both inside and outside U.S. territory, complies with the right to privacy as enshrined in international human rights law, Amnesty International said in an open letter today.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that President Obama's anticipated reforms, reportedly to be announced before the State of the Union address, will fall short.

"President Obama correctly recognized that U.S. surveillance is out of control, but to ensure real reform he must put human rights at the center of U.S. policy. This includes acknowledging the importance of whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and respecting their rights – not persecuting them," said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. "Snowden should not be prosecuted for revelations about human rights violations by the U.S. government."

In the open letter, Amnesty International calls on President Obama to take a number of steps to end unlawful mass surveillance:

  • Disclose the scope of U.S. surveillance to ensure comprehensive reform;
  • Respect the rights of all people, not only U.S. citizens;
  • Recognize the application of international human rights standards to U.S. practice;
  • Take into account the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which provide guidance in implementing these international standards;
  • Establish an independent privacy rights champion before the FISA Court;
  • Support encryption standards to increase security and trust;
  • Respect the rights of whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden.

"We urge Obama to appoint a public interest advocate – a position he has embraced – to ensure that human rights are protected and considered in the balance," Hawkins said.

Read Amnesty's letter to President Obama here:


For more information and to schedule interviews, please contact:
Gabe Cahn, [email protected], 202.776.7700, c: 202.412.1678

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.